The Blacksmiths, Clayworth
The realisation that a newly purchased business property does not just need renovation but more of a rebuild might be an insurmountable obstacle for some. For the owners of The Blacksmiths, however, this was an opportunity to retain the heritage exterior of the building while creating an open, spacious interior.
We visited early on a Friday evening and already the large car park at the rear of the building was becoming full. We had passed invitingly modernised cottages on the left of the driveway which offer overnight accommodation to diners too. A private dining room, which overlooks the gardens sits on the upper floor of a green oak built extension at the back of the building and was beautifully lit with an elegant table set ready for its dozen or so guests to arrive.
We met Will, one of the owners, at the bar and he took us on a quick tour of The Blacksmiths. The large central bar serves casual drinkers as well as diners who are accommodated in dining areas to the right and left of the bar. A spiral staircase leads to the private dining room and some eye-catchingly designed, luxury washrooms. Be sure to check out the artworks outside the loos, which really tickled me and confirmed that here is a team who are witty but serious about their love of food and produce.
The interior has a slight industrial feel, with exposed steels and vertical chains providing subtle curtain panels between areas. It all works in keeping with the ‘forge’ connection, while the hewn wood table tops and slate lend a contemporary and natural feel to the surroundings. The owners spent many years as chalet hosts in Switzerland and suspended antique toboggans, ski poles and a large cow bell over the bar all add to the charm of the interior.
A large blackboard hung on a beam over the bar area has details of the daily menu, which is served at lunchtimes and evenings. This offers a choice of tempting starters including mussels in creamy cider and pancetta sauce, chicken and chorizo terrine or butternut squash and Yorkshire Blue cheese risotto. Main meal options range from classics such as fish pie, steaks or a ‘Blacksmiths’ burger to a chef’s signature dish of pheasant Wellington.
We had our drinks brought to our table and then had a chance to look through the evening only à la carte menu. It’s a great idea to be able to pick and mix from each menu and we were very spoilt for choice. It all looked so tempting.
Our starter choices were Thai salmon fish cakes served with homemade sweet chilli sauce and pickled vegetable salad from the bar menu and king scallops served with roasted cauliflower puree, curried tempura florets, golden raisins and caper dressing from the à la carte menu. The accomplished food presentation itself gave us an idea that our meal would be something special and we were not disappointed. My scallops were plump, succulent and delicious with their accompanying flavours. The fish cakes were declared to be packed with salmon and delicious with the not-oversweet homemade chilli sauce.
For our main courses I chose the pheasant Wellington which was served on a rosti peppered with lardons, while my companion went for the Blacksmiths fish pie, which came with a star-gazy langoustine decorating the top. These dishes were served with seasonal vegetables but additional sides could be ordered from the à la carte menu if your appetite is larger. The pheasant breast had been kept very moist by the cheese mousse, which topped the Wellington beneath the latticed puff pastry. The fish pie was packed with prime pieces of white fish, langoustine and salmon. The fish pie perhaps looked messier in its presentation but the taste was superb. I loved my choice and thought it was one of the best dishes I have eaten in many months.
Our dessert choices were blackcurrant bavarois served with white chocolate soft cheese spread, liquorice macaron, ice cream, milk tuile and whipped sugar Macadamia nut and a lemon cheesecake, blowtorched Italian meringue, Brittany shortbread and lemon curd. These desserts were sharp and clean, sweet and yet not overwhelmingly cloying to the palate. What an end to an outstanding meal.
I haven’t included many of the other menu choices because head chef Liam Philbin is using seasonal and local produce and the menus change and evolve with availability of some of the produce. You can find full details of menus on the website. He and his team are producing food of a very high standard. I don’t like to use the term ‘gastropub’ but the choice is yours whether you opt for a classic meal, go for the fine dining choices or sample the à la carte offers. There are also full details of all the Christmas and New Year menus on the website which look equally tempting. I will be returning for another experience of The Blacksmiths in the New Year and I am looking forward to that already.